Archive for June, 2015


Unseen masters of the wild

Posted on Jun 27 2015 | By

Fauquier County home to growing coyote population

They are everywhere but nowhere. They range the entire state of Virginia surviving and thriving on all matter of food from grass to house pets; if it’s edible its fair game. And yet to spot one is a rare privilege bestowed upon the precious few.

Consider: There are 8.2 million Virginians and at least 50,000 coyotes in the Commonwealth. But try to find someone who has seen one. Wile E. Coyote has a well-earned reputation for elusiveness.

coyotesIt is believed the first coyotes in Virginia were Midwestern pups brought in by man during the 1950s, raised and then released. But by the late 1970s, a decades-long natural migration from the southern states was in full bloom. Soon after, the animal dropped down from the northeast joining his southern brothers and creating a pincer movement into the Old Dominion.

Today, there is a minimum of 2,000 coyotes in Fauquier County. They are here to stay. The animal has a legendary track record for being impossible to eradicate. One could even say it’s a lost cause; something old-line Virginians have historical knowledge of.

“We do not recommend counties establish bounties. They don’t work,” said Mike Fies, wildlife research biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “There’s a 150-old-year record of total failure. You can’t kill enough coyotes with a bounty system to make a difference in the population.”

Nonetheless, 17 out of 95 counties in Virginia offer bounties ranging from $25 to $75 a pelt. Fauquier County is not included. A typical male weighs 45 pounds and a female about 10 pounds less.

With or without bounties, the number of coyotes in Virginia continues to grow; slower west of the Blue Ridge where they are well-established and faster in the Piedmont and counties surrounding the nation’s capital.

One enduring rumor is the Shenandoah National Park brought coyotes in to maintain its deer herds. “I’ve heard that rumor for 30 years,” said Fies. “It’s hogwash.” Once they breeched the Mississippi River their movement east was slow but inexorable.

But man rarely interacts with them, and livestock and pet depredation are not a major problem—yet—so is their presence cause for real concern? 

The Trapper
Finding someone who has interacted with a coyote is like finding trout in an overfished stream. Good luck. But one line of work provides amble opportunity to come face-to-face with all manner of wildlife: The trapper.

Trapping conjures up visions of mid-1800s mountain men opening up the west. Yet the profession still exists in the 21st century. Often, today’s trapper is employed to eliminate a “problem child” of the forest and fields.

Burt Herbert, owner of Animal Removal for Keeps based in Manassas, traps throughout Northern Virginia. He has trapped coyotes in Fauquier County but the majority of calls for help come from Lorton and Great Falls. Great Falls? “Oh yes, we even have them around Sports Authority in Manassas,” said Herbert. Who knew?

“The eastern coyote is much more wily, cunning and bigger than the western coyote,” said Herbert. This is likely due to its hybridization with wolves in Canada and the northern states before descending down the east coast.

“Most of my phone calls are due to coyote sightings around houses where they are killing people’s pets. If they kill the dog, they will usually leave the dog. But if they kill the cats, they usually take them away,” said Herbert.

As a professional trapper, Herbert has 30 years experience and has an endless number of tales to share; some quite extraordinary. “I’ve seen a coyote scale a six-foot-high privacy fence with a cat in its mouth. I didn’t believe it could have gotten up it but it sure did,” he recalls.

To provide an even clearer picture of the scope of the Fauquier County population Herbert said, “There have been packs of over 20 in the county. I know somebody who shot 23 of them in one evening coming down to kill his sheep.”

He elaborates that the animal’s diet ranges from grass, mice, rabbits, fawns and cats up to sheep and calves. They are opportunistic hunters.

Notwithstanding his first-hand experience, his coyote trapping is limited to about a dozen kills last year; certainly not reflecting an epidemic of depredation.

Coyotes are legally defined as a nuisance species and can be hunted year round. But given its limited intrusion into the lives of humans a case might be made for a live and let live attitude.

Whatever one’s take on coyotes, it is without a doubt one of the most intelligent and fascinating creatures in the wild kingdom.

                                                 Living with coyotes 

                             Follow the rules and pets will remain safe

No animal has greater respect for you than Mr. Wily Coyote. Its respect and fear of Homo sapiens has been purchased at great cost.

The animal has been relentlessly hunted for over 200 years and paid the price with much loss of life.

Of course, it’s learned a lot along the way too.

So while it has nothing to do with you personally—hey, a guy has to eat—pets are almost irresistible dining if given the opportunity to strike. Hunger trumps respect.

Here are the keys to keeping the clever ones at bay:

*Remove all unnatural food sources from around your home. Pet food left on the porch or overflowing garbage cans are fast food restaurants to the dining out coyote. If they find these treasures with any regularity at the same location, a real problem emerges; they can become emboldened. That’s not good.

*Do not tolerate coyotes around your residence. It’s seemingly a feather in your cap for a coyote to find your homestead inviting (is it the landscaping or the color of my home?) but habituation to man is the leading cause of attacks on four-legged family members. More seriously, it may even evolve into aggressive behavior toward you.

*When walking small dogs or playing with children in known coyote habits, keep pets on a leash and children close at hand. Attacks on humans are extremely rare but take no chances.

*If you spot one in the yard, make sure it knows it’s unwelcome. Yell or throw non-edible objects in its direction. It can’t read “No Trespassing” signs but humans who are aggressive will send them packing.

Finally, if you do see one at a safe distance consider taking a video. You’ll be assured of multiple likes on Facebook or even a viral run on YouTube. Yep, that’s how rare filmed encounters are.


Published in the Summer 2015 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

 Winery expands with opening of distillery  

If you are looking for a unique gift for dad on Father’s Day, consider taking him out to Old House Vineyards for the launch of its new distillery. But first, stop by the winery and sample the wines then wrap up your visit with a brick oven pizza on the patio while listening to live music.

Of course lake fishing could also be on the agenda. They’ll even supply the worms.

Old House Vineyards and its new libation factory is synonymous with fun. On Sunday, June 21, after three years of hard work and an investment of over a quarter million dollars, the Kearney family will open its distillery for tastings and sales.

Pat and Allyson Kearney are the power couple behind the social lubricant adventure land. They also apparently never sleep given what they’ve created at Old House since opening in 2002. Wine production increased to 3,000 cases this year and some fifty weddings and numerous other events are held on the estate annually.

FullSizeRenderFortunately, the heavy workload at the vineyard will now be shared by Ryan Kearney, the couple’s 24-year-old son and newly minted crafted distiller. The University of Virginia graduate spent a year working for an IT firm in Washington, D.C. before being lured home by dad with an offer he couldn’t resist; creating distilled spirits.

“I can’t really complain much about what I do. I have a pretty awesome job. It definitely beats working in D.C.” said Ryan Kearney.

Indeed. An awesome job that makes not only the young man happy but the soon-to-be fans of Old House spirits as well.

Using the template that created their previous successes, the Kearneys will launch the distillery with two different bottlings and expand over time. A vodka produced from the winery’s Vidal Blanc grapes and a silver rum distilled from sugar cane and molasses will be available for tasting and sale on opening day.

In the near future, a specialty product made from Blue Agave nectar will grace the tasting notes. The libation is similar to a Tequila.

Starting a distillery from scratch requires money, education and patience; jumping in without due diligence courts a quick stumble. All of the products at Old House have to be tested on small ten gallon stills before moving to full production.

FullSizeRender (3)The equipment itself is pricey. The distillery has one 150 gallon copper Olympic pot still from South Africa costing $60,000. Three additional column stills cost $15,000 each. Quality spirits are not made on the cheap.

Additional equipment will be purchased as production increases. Future liquors will include grain- based whiskey and gin using rye, barley and wheat grown by Culpeper farmers.

To prepare for the new venture Pat and Ryan Kearney took a distilling course in Seattle. Then Ryan Kearney hit the books hard to perfect his skills. He also sought help from current Virginia distillers.

When Old House secured its permit to distill, it became the 21st distillery in the state. “All of the state’s distilleries are very open to sharing information. It’s one of the great things about craft distilling in Virginia,” Ryan Kearney said.

Licensing by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control added a another dimension to the endeavor; strict laws govern the production of distilled beverages.

An added attraction to the new stand-alone distillery is a World War II museum. Pat Kearney’s primary job is president of Kearney and Associates, a firm specializing in the design and construction of museum exhibits for government and private organizations.

“Dad has 30 years experience in museum design and World War II speaks to him a lot. Our neighbors are also veterans of the war,” Ryan Kearney said.

The museum provides a unique backdrop to the tasting room and reinforces the contributions the “Greatest Generation” made to the Nation.

“There’s nothing better than working with your family,” Ryan Kearney said. “It’s a neat experience. Hopefully, the distillery will bring more people to Old House and to Culpeper. We are excited about the next couple of years.”

The Kearney’s have two other children; Brittany, 26, is a registered nurse and Liam, 19, attends college and works at the winery during the summer months. “I could see him coming back after school,” said Ryan Kearney.

Old House Vineyards is located at 18351 Corkys Lane, Culpeper. It is opened six days a week year round; closed on Tuesdays. For additional information on hours and special events visit:

FullSizeRender (2)

Published in the June 18, 2015 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Wicked Barn Brewery to open this September

Posted on Jun 05 2015 | By

Recipes and pub location being finalized now  

In 1979 there were just a handful of craft breweries in the United States. It was also the year President Jimmy Carter signed legislation allowing homebrewing. What started out as a few snow flakes of homebrewers turned into an avalanche of commercial artisan brewmasters.

An avalanche? Indeed. From a scattering of craft breweries in the early 1980s, the industry has burgeoned to nearly 3,600 today. It’s a classic example of free enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit being unleashed by market opportunity.

Moreover, it has catapulted the U.S. into the world’s leading craft beer producer. Today, some of the finest beer in the world is being produced in America.

Craft beer has joined forces with artisanal wine and distilled spirits as a growth industry. Across the spectrum of “social lubricants” quality is trumping quantity.

The phenomenon is evident in communities across the country and Culpeper is no exception. With the opening of Wicked Barn Brewery in September the town will be home to three craft breweries.

Wicked Barn BreweryThe latest brewer to enter the local craft beer scene is a native of Culpeper. William Jones, 43, was born at Culpeper Regional Hospital and grew up on a nearby dairy farm. His family raised Holstein cattle and farmed hay, alfalfa and other grain crops.

Much of the farm was sold in 1985 but the 300 foot long dairy barn remained in the family. It will be repurposed from milk production to beer. “It’s in rough shape. It’s been sitting for 30 years but it still has some good bones to it,” Jones said.

Jones plans to make the barn his brewing location and eventually a brew pub. In the interim, he will establish retail presence in downtown Culpeper in September while his full business plan unfolds over the next three years.

Currently Jones is not selling beer. The basement of his home is his “pilot beer house” where he is perfecting his lineup of brews. Lovers of the hop will be rewarded for their patience when his beers start flowing from the taps.

The diversity of his selections is impressive and includes black Irish stout, Ruby-Brown ale, West Coast India Pale Ale, German wheat beer, American Brown ale and a German pilsner, among others. A total of eight beers will grace his menu when he opens.

In addition to brewing, the former farm boy will return to his roots by growing hops on the barn property. Hops are a key ingredient in beer providing flavoring and stability and imparting a bitter, tangy flavor to balance the malt flavor of the barley grain.

There are only a few hop farmers in the Old Dominion today. The plants are called bines and grow 25 feet in height on a network of poles and trellising. “I believe they will do well in Virginia. The plants take a lot of water.

“I will grow Columbus, Cascade, Centennial and other varieties. I will initially plant an acre but ultimately grow five acres,” Jones said. In addition to locally gown hops he will use barley also grown in Virginia.

“I want to use local products as much as I can. I want to engage local companies to help leverage their businesses. I want to give back to the community,” Jones said.

As his business grows, Jones will bring other employees on board. He will hire an assistant brewer and someone to run the pub plus employees to work there. “I will manage and operate it but there will be other employees that will help. I will continue to work my regular job.” said Jones.

That day job by the way is vice president of engineering and production at Euro-Composites at the Culpeper Airport Industrial Park.

The firm, headquartered in Luxembourg, invested $11 million in its Culpeper plant in 2011 and today employees 82 people. The company manufactures honeycomb composite material used in aerospace and other industry sectors.

Clearly this brewmaster has earned his business bona fides and will bring a wealth of expertise to his hobby turned second career.

Name that brewery
So how did Wicked Barn earn its moniker? Jones laughs and says, “It’s long story.”

It seems one of his favorite songs as a young man was called Wicked Ways by the heavy metal band Leatherwolf. At the time, he had rebuilt a 1994 Chevy pickup, dropped a racing motor in it and dubbed the truck Wicked Ways.

Subsequently, he took up motorcycle racing and called the bike Wicked II. “So the wicked thing has been in my family a long time.” It made sense to continue the theme with his brewery. Not to mention that the beer will likely taste “wicked good”.

In summing up his emerging role as a brewmaster, Jones said, “I am really looking forward to opening. I’m excited. I incorporated the business on April 4 and the closer I get to opening the more anxious I’m to get going.”

What a coincidence. Beer lovers throughout Virginia will also be eager to have Wicked Barn join the state’s brewery scene.

To track the progress of Wicked Barn’s opening visit its Facebook page:


Culpeper Brew Scene
When Wicked Barn Brewery opens in September, it will join two other current breweries in town. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, grab your beer mug and head out to:

                                          Beer Hound Brewery
Opened in 2014, Beer Hound Brewery is a nanobrewery and strives to keep beer local by brewing and serving beer direct to customers. All of the beers at Beer Hound are named after famous hounds in movies and history. Stop by and howl with the best of them.
201 Waters Place #2
Culpeper, VA 22701
(540) 317.5327

                                       Far Gohn Brewing Company
A “Tavern Brewery” that celebrates the German immigrant contributions to the America beer tradition and embraces a variety of beer worldwide. A fresh lineup of beers is rotated on the menu including British ales, Belgian styles, and American craft brews. Every weekend a cask of ale is tapped and served as it was centuries ago.

301 South East Street
Culpeper, VA 22701
(540) 555.1234

Categories : WINE ARTICLES